Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ready for some R and R...

I don't know about you, but this is a really crazy time of year for me. These last couple of weeks I feel like I've been just running from one meeting to the next with the moments in between spent working furiously away on my laptop for one project or another. Although my busy time isn't over yet I really feel like I need a break, even a tiny one, to keep my energy up so I can jump through all of the hoops I need to jump through!

For me, nothing says relaxation like a lazy weekend morning with some cooking magazine (or Food Network), big mugs of coffee, and a delicious breakfast that you don't even need to get out of your pajamas to eat. Those long mornings are sometimes few and far between but there's something so wonderfully cozy about them that they really keep me going even when I feel like my weekdays are a blur of madness. The perfect weekend breakfast should be something you wouldn't make for yourself on a weekday but not so cumbersome that your morning is spent in a blur of kitchen madness (but don't get me wrong, I do love an all-consuming project from time to time).

Sometimes I make pancakes, or dressed-up oatmeal, or even simple breakfast pastries. However, my new favorite may be biscuits. I love biscuits primarily because I was absolutely terrified of them for ages but Alton Brown really showed me that if you can make a pie crust, you can make a biscuit. So, I cast my fears aside and have now made biscuits several times. My triumph over fear is not the only reason you should really make biscuits this weekend. Not only are they versatile in that they are delicious with jam and butter and even better as a breakfast sandwich (my favorite is bacon, an over-easy egg, and perhaps a slice of good cheese) but biscuits freeze really well. I'm not kidding when I say that these were even better when I baked them straight from the freezer; being super cold early on really helped them puff up later. Unfortunately, we devoured those immediately, leaving no time for a photo-op.

Oversize Breakfast Biscuits
Originally published in Food and Wine, September 2010.

Note: These freeze beautifully. I think they were even better the second time around. To freeze the biscuits, stop after step 2 and place the biscuits on a parchment-covered baking sheet and put the whole thing in the freezer. Several hours later, after the biscuits are solid, place the frozen biscuits in a ziplock bag. When you next lazy morning rolls around, heat the oven to 475 and increase the baking time by a few minutes, but be sure to check on them!

Makes 6 very large biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons chilled solid vegetable shortening
5 tablespoons unsalted butter—3 tablespoons thinly sliced, 2 tablespoons melted
1 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 475°. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven. In a large bowl, whisk the 2 cups of flour with the salt, baking powder and baking soda. Using a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Using your fingers, rub in the sliced butter, leaving large flakes of coated butter. Freeze the mixture until very cold, about 15 minutes.

2. Stir in the buttermilk until a raggy dough forms. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and press or roll into a 9-by-7-inch rectangle, about 3/4 inch thick. Fold the rectangle in thirds like a letter, then fold the rectangle in half to make a little package. Press or roll out the dough to a 9-by-7-inch rectangle again. Repeat the folding process once more, then roll the dough out one more time to a 9-by-7-inch rectangle. Using a 3 1/2-inch round cutter, stamp out 4 biscuits. Pat the scraps together and stamp out 2 more biscuits.

3. Arrange the biscuits on a large baking sheet and brush the tops with the melted butter. Bake for about 14 minutes, shifting the baking sheet halfway through, until the tops and bottoms are golden and the biscuits are cooked through.

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